Modular workflow for the community-led development of custom livestock DNA methylation arrays

Project Details


Epigenetic marks are changes on the genome that do not involve DNA sequence alterations. A commonly studiedepigenetic mark is DNA methylation, that affects how genes are expressed and has been linked to diseases and other traitsin both humans and animals. DNA methylation can determine if a particular gene is switched on (expressed) or not in aparticular tissue. Research has shown that, unlike the DNA sequence, DNA methylation can also act as a record of the environment we are exposed to. For example, some DNA methylation "sites" can distinguish smokers from never-smokers, animals with different nutritional states or fertility. Currently investigating DNA methylation is only possible through the use of expensive sequencing technologies, and this excessive cost prevents scientists from studying DNA methylation in livestock and how it could contribute to informing selection strategies to breed healthy and productive animals effectively and sustainably. The project we propose will develop the tools to enable these studies. We have engaged with leaders in the field of livestock epigenetics, industrial partners and breeders forming a truly multidisciplinary team with a common goal. As there are multiple livestock species we propose to develop the computational tools to select the most informative DNA methylation "sites" to test in anepigenetic kit similar to the direct-to-consumer genetic testing kits. This epigenetic test done using DNA methylation arrays(kits), is substantially cheaper than obtaining the DNA methylation information through sequencing. We will do the "site" selection based on information we already know about where DNA methylation changes are important, for example, at genes and their regulatory sites, and using data from a set of animals that have DNA methylation data obtained through sequencing. At the moment, cattle is the livestock species with the most DNA methylation information derived from sequencing. So we will initially focus on cattle to design an array that will facilitate affordable epigenetic research in that species using our computational workflow, that can then be used in other species as the amount of data increases. We will work with a company that can produce the first DNA methylation kits designed to cover the most informative parts of the enome with respect to trait variation. This work could potentially have a major economic impact as it could contribute to the breeding of healthier and more efficient livestock, which could decrease the environmental impact of animal production, through, for example, better use of resources or lower methane emissions
Short titlemethylation arrays
Effective start/end date1/08/2231/08/24

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

ASJC Scopus Subject Areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Biotechnology
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology


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